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Updated on November 13, 2023
7 min read

Buspirone and Alcohol

Buspirone is a medication typically prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions. It’s relatively safe with its low risk for physical dependence. Here are some statistics on Buspirone’s use in the U.S.:

8.1

Million

 estimated number of prescriptions for buspirone in the United States

$25.20

Average

average total drug cost of buspirone

$6.01

Average

average out-of-pocket cost of buspirone

While buspirone is relatively safe and accessible, it still carries several risks. Mixing buspirone with alcohol can increase the drug’s side effects and heighten risks such as problems concentrating or trouble breathing.

In this blog article, we give an overview of Buspar’s effects, potential interactions with alcohol, and treatment options for addiction.

What is Buspirone?

Buspar, also known as buspirone, is a prescription medication used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is still available under the generic name buspirone. It’s typically used as a second-line treatment when patients cannot tolerate selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Buspirone has become more popular due to its lower risk of side effects than other anxiolytic treatments for anxiety disorders. Unlike benzodiazepines and barbiturates, such as Xanax or Valium, buspirone does not carry a risk of physical dependence or withdrawal.

How Does Buspirone Work?

Buspirone alters certain substances in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine receptors, creating a calming effect that regulates mood and decreases anxiety symptoms. This anti-anxiety medication slows activity in the central nervous system.

The full therapeutic effects of buspirone may take up to 4 weeks to show significant results. Therefore, it may not be as effective for addressing acute anxiety symptoms compared to benzodiazepines or barbiturates.

Unlike other medications for anxiety disorders, buspirone causes fewer sedative and cognitive impairments.

How Do You Take Buspirone?

Buspirone mostly comes in pill form, and most patients take buspirone twice a day. It’s best to always take this medication as directed on the label or as your doctor recommends. Do not use buspirone in larger quantities or for longer than suggested.

Some buspirone pills are scored to break the tablet into two or three pieces for a smaller dose. Only take a tablet if it has been broken properly to avoid taking the wrong dosage.

You can decide whether to take buspirone with or without food. But you must take it the same way each time.

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Can You Mix Buspirone and Alcohol to Treat Anxiety?

You should avoid drinking alcohol while taking buspirone to treat anxiety. 

While combining Buspar with alcohol can increase the drugs' effects on your central nervous system, doing so leads to harmful drug interactions that can cause serious adverse effects or impairment.

People should not self-medicate with alcohol and Buspar to treat their anxiety. Combining Buspar and alcohol to enhance its calming effects can lead to harmful results. Over time, physical dependence on Buspar and drinking to manage anxiety symptoms can develop into alcohol use disorder (AUD)

What Are the Side Effects and Risks of Mixing Buspirone with Alcohol?

Mixing alcohol and buspirone can worsen anxiety symptoms and exacerbate nervous system side effects.

The most common side effects of combining these substances include:

  • Increased drowsiness
  • Upset stomach
  • Severe headache
  • Severe fatigue
  • Vomiting

Mixing buspirone and alcohol can also cause more serious side effects, such as: 

  • Slowed breathing 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired judgment
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Is Buspirone Addictive?

Patients do not develop a tolerance to buspirone. Buspirone alone does not create a high (even if injected). There have been no reports of a fatal overdose on buspirone by itself.

Buspirone is generally non-addictive. It has less toxicity and a lower potential for misuse than other prescription medications, making it ideal for long-term use.

However, there is still a small risk of addiction due to the buspirone's calming effects. This is true of all anti-anxiety medications, including those with low toxicity and constant tolerance.

Buspirone Overdose Symptoms

Even though overdoses are not fatal, you can still overdose on buspirone.

Symptoms of buspirone overdose include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Constricted pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
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What Are the Side Effects of Buspirone?

There are many common side effects associated with buspirone. They are usually mild and don’t require immediate medical attention.

The most common side effects of Buspar include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness
  • Excitability
  • Lightheadedness
  • Restlessness
  • Drowsiness or tiredness
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Mild nasal congestion
  • Mild muscle pain

Other less common or rare side effects include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Clammy hands or feet
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Impaired concentration
  • Diarrhea
  • Moderate muscle pain
  • Muscle spasms or stiffness
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Excessive tiredness or weakness
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Anger outbursts
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Low-grade fever
  • Coordination issues
  • Depression
  • General weakness
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Uncontrollable body movements

Despite being used to treat anxiety, taking buspirone can occasionally worsen anxiety symptoms, causing individuals to feel more nervous or have uncontrollable outbursts of emotion.

However, it can take between two and four weeks for buspirone to take effect, so when using it to treat anxiety disorders, it’s best to be patient.

Can You Use Buspirone to Treat Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

Studies show that buspirone can reduce the addictive effects of various substances and effectively inhibit alcohol intake. In addition, buspirone can reduce anxiety symptoms associated with alcohol consumption, as untreated anxiety can cause an individual to drink more alcohol.

While it may be effective in treating the symptoms of AUD, it’s vital to maintain sobriety while under treatment to avoid drug interactions with your treatment. Consult your healthcare provider to confirm what substances may interfere with your medication while in recovery.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

If you or someone you know suffers from AUD and co-occurring substance abuse, consider the following treatment options:

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center.

These programs provide 24/7 comprehensive, structured care. You'll live in safe, substance-free housing and have access to professional medical monitoring.

The first step of an inpatient program is detoxification. Then, behavioral therapy and other services come after. These programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days, sometimes longer.

Most programs help set up your aftercare once you complete the inpatient portion of your treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are sometimes referred to as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Partial hospitalization programs provide similar services to inpatient programs. However, you are allowed to return home daily.

PHPs include medical care, behavioral therapy, support groups, and mental health services. Some services provide food and transportation, but services vary by program.

PHPs accept people who have completed an inpatient program and still need intensive treatment.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment is less intensive than inpatient or partial hospitalization programs. These programs organize your treatment session based on your schedule.

Outpatient treatment aims to provide therapy, education, and support in a flexible environment. They are best for people who are highly motivated to recover and cannot leave their responsibilities at home, work, or school.

Outpatient programs are often part of aftercare programs once you complete an inpatient or PHP program.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

In medication-assisted therapy (MAT), medications are used to help reduce the adverse side effects of detoxification and treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Other drugs can help you reduce cravings and normalize body functions.

Disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and naltrexone are the most common medications for treating alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

When combined with other evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery.

Support Groups

Support groups can be the first step towards recovery or part of a long-term aftercare plan. Organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) are open to anyone with a substance use disorder (SUD).

They are peer-led organizations dedicated to helping each other remain sober. Sessions can be conducted in person or online, depending on the program you join.  

Summary

Buspirone is a medication used to treat anxiety symptoms and several mental health conditions. While buspirone itself is not addictive, combining buspar and alcohol can reduce the drug’s efficacy and increase its effects on the central nervous system.

Many treatments are available to address alcohol dependence, including inpatient and outpatient programs, medication-assisted therapy, and support groups. If you or someone you know suffers from a life-threatening addiction, consult your healthcare provider for the best options.

Updated on November 13, 2023
4 sources cited
Updated on November 13, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Wilson, T.K., and Tripp, J.Buspirone.” StatPearls Publishing, National Library of Medicine, 2023.
  2. Loane, C., and Politis, M. “Buspirone: What is it all about?” Brain Research, ScienceDirect, 2012.
  3. Harmful Interactions.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 2014.
  4. Bernard, L., and Boileau, I. “Repurposing buspirone for drug addiction treatment.” The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, Oxford Academic, 2012.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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